Date: 7 May 2009
TIME Magazine has recognized Afghan women’s rights advocate Ms. Suraya Pakzad as one of its top 100 people in 2009. The international news magazine praised Ms. Pakzad, who founded the Voice of Women Organization (VWO) and works in close cooperation with UNIFEM Afghanistan, for her courageous and tireless work in providing Afghan women with shelter, counseling and job training, and raising awareness on gender-based violence in her country.
Ms. Pakzad’s work in Afghanistan goes back to more than a decade ago when she founded VWO in 1998 to teach women and girls how to read in groups across Afghanistan. Now, VWO runs a range of projects that support disadvantaged and oppressed women. VWO’s projects include Gender-Based Violence Training and the Woman’s Legal and Social Programme, which raises awareness among both community and government representatives about women’s rights, provides women victims of violence with legal support, and trains lawyers and social workers. More than 200 women have benefited from immediate and long-term protection, including psychological support, legal advice and medical care since 2006.
In 2008, VOW became a grantee of The UN Special Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women in Afghanistan to secure funding for Ms. Pakzad’s main project, the Women’s Shelter, in the Western part of the country. The Special Fund, which is managed by UNIFEM, was established in 2007 by UN agencies, national and international organizations providing support to Afghan women victims of violence.
Eight years after the fall of the Taliban regime, women are still facing persistent insecurity in the war-ravaged country. Ms. Pakzad’s persistence to help the women in her country continues to place her in danger. However, she remains resolute in her beliefs. At a UNIFEM co-organized conference at the United Nations in New York in March, Ms. Pakzad stressed that long-term commitments are needed to permanently improve the situation of women in an on-going conflict that has seen an increase in violence against them in both public and private spheres. "We need action today to protect women's lives in the short term," Ms. Pakzad said. "We must save their lives now."
The U.S. State Department honoured Ms. Pakzad with the “Women of Courage” award in 2008. She recently received the National Medal (Malali Medal) from the President of Afghanistan.